That Old Familiar Feeling.

Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.” ― Wayne W. Dyer

I got an unexpected and sweet message from an old friend from high school the other day. They were writing to apologize for things that went down in high school.

I told her that I was happy to hear from her and we should get together but that I didn’t really think about those days anymore. I had never really held anything against her anyhow—it was just so long ago.

That was true, but then I started realizing that that thing has never really gone away. Whether it’s about me or them, I still grapple with that feeling frequently, that feeling that predated high school.

It’s been with me ever since I can remember, and it keeps happening. Recently it’s been coming up for me at work, before that it was to do with a group of friends in Vancouver…even just the other night (in a small way), and even with family.

There’s this feeling of being left behind, squeezed out…not so much rejection as just plain not noticed or invited, not a part of things: the last chosen in gym class, the quiet one playing alone in the corner of the playground.

I’ve never really stood out. I’m average: average grades, average looks, average intelligence. Awkward at first, sometimes. Nice, but nice doesn’t get you far.  Always in the audience and never on stage. Watching, listening, cautious about speaking. Unless I’m particularly comfortable and/or well-prepared, I freeze up when they call on me.

It’s aways been that way.

Lately I’ve been better about acknowledging this and letting people know that I’m this way: I need to know I’m invited, even if I don’t show up. I’ve been pushing myself to show up more too.

I work hard. I work well. But I’m not a type-A-extravert-high-achieving-leader and never will be. I’ve struggled with not being that my entire life and now I accept it. But when people try to push me in that direction I just retract the other way. It’s an almost visceral reaction to the sense that someone doesn’t accept me the way I am. That they want me to be someone else.

This post isn’t about blame and it isn’t a pity party—it’s more of an exploration: I’m 36 years old, there is nothing wrong with me. I recognize my own role in the way this feeling comes up now.

But it still strikes me now and then, that it hits me so hard. Why is it that when I feel I don’t belong my automatic reaction is to run and hide, to just shrink back further?

It’s difficult for me to express myself at times, which makes me seem less exciting than the other people in the room. I have always valued interesting over beautiful, but I’ve never been good at making something interesting and and showing it off. Jumping into the middle of the room and telling a story, a joke, doing a dance.

I don’t always love living life in the shadow, but sometimes that’s just where I have to be.

I also may seem insecure—which of course at times has been and is true (as it is for everyone)—but the thing is that at the end of the day I am not. At the end of the day I always have to drop those feelings and know I’m okay.

Still, I’m tired of going there. I am tired of feeling small. I’m tired of feeling like other people want me to be different. I don’t want to have to explain myself or apologize for somehow not being more.

If I feel like I’m not ‘acting’ in a certain way, I feel de-motivated to participate. I love working/being with good people, but I don’t like the rah rah rah.

I don’t want to be pushed. When it’s already difficult to stay healthy, balanced, happy…this can tip me. Then I hide.

For the most part, I have to be alone to create/work.

As this actually what is happening, or am I maybe a little bit jealous? For sure. I remember feeling envious of those people who naturally stand out ever since I can remember—this is part of what was going on in high school, too. But now it’s not so much about that.

Fundamentally I’ve gotten past a lot of actual envy. What pisses me off the most is when I know Im’ okay like this, but I get the feeling that other people wish you were like her, or at the very least different than you actually are

These are my own feelings, not theirs. Maybe they think I’m less than them, maybe not. But it’s not about them at all. Never was.  It is about the people who genuinely do accept me, reach out, care. Who receive me and accept me and hold me. Who let me be when and what I need to be.

Sometimes though I’m just quiet. I want to sit back and stay behind the scenes and work or read or observe.

That’s who I am and I don’t want to feel that I’m somehow lesser for being me.

To some extent we all evolve and I’m definitely pushing myself to take risks and be more extraverted. But at the end of the day I will probably still be that shy girl playing alone in the corner of the playground. I will come to you when I’m ready.

I want to hold your hand, for real, to be up front and bold and creative and really show myself. I want to so badly sometimes that it hurts…but it might just take some time.

And I need to know that that’s okay.


What the Threat of Death can Teach us.


Yesterday I thought a lot about death.

It began with with the news that Brittany Maynard had chosen two days before as her own death. I’d only just learned (and edited and shared this piece) about her plight for the right to a dignified death on the same evening I’d published and shared.

The post was popular, the conversations vibrant.

The opportunity to dig deep into that piece (on behalf of the writer, Molly Ruby) really shook me awake. It made me remember how a close friend had told me about her experience with death, once, and how I have vowed since to do everything in my power to make sure that people have an opportunity to just be comfortable when the time comes.

To just be at peace.

I don’t think that peace should be too much to ask for in life or in death, but somehow it is for so many.

Later that morning I found myself with windstung cheeks and open, wondering eyes, walking through a maze of leaf-littered paths in what could be one of the most morbid of places: a cemetery.

Moving through that restful and sad place somehow woke me up; while I was respectful and solemn of the context of the place, it’s beauty fairly stunned me.

There was a certain gentleness about breathing it all in, of the grace and oldness of the beautiful statues that stand as gravestones.

Sadly the bigger the statues, the more money the deceased (families) probably had (have), which means their graves will rule over the rest for a longer period of time.

But the statues give life to the place, a community of sorts. I imagined all of the ghosts (not just the rich ones) dancing together in this peaceful park on the side of the mountain, some maybe escaping to haunt earthly places that they love or could not let go of.

I’m not even a superstitious person; many close friends have experienced ghosts (and I believe their experiences) and I have not. But I’d like to believe that death is not the end. Just the choice that we have to use our imaginations in that way is a thing that can keep us light.


So I was transfixed by the way the stillness of the statues was highlighted by patches of sunlight and contrasted by whirlwinds of leaves and distant city sounds.

I wrote recently about breathing out to balance all of the inwardness. And this is part of finding a reflection in the dark goddess 

The reflecting made me think about the little deaths, the way that we die to each moment, that we have to leave the past behind every day.

It made me think of the reasons we are so scared to morph out of the things we are defined by: I am (we are) not that ‘person’ anymore.

I want to leave a lot of it behind but I loved it, for real. And don’t quite know what is filling the space anymore.

Change happens anyway—we can’t stop it. Big changes, loss that seems out of our control is the biggest. So I want to change now and move into a new way of being but the patterns that I’ve held onto for so long define me, too.

My skin feels cool and papery, now, suddenly waxy and wan. I don’t feel young anymore. This feeling has been sneaking up on me for a while, I guess but it’s finally hitting me: I’m aging. I no longer feel the warm fullness of youth in my face-skin but a fallen, cooler feel, like a blue-grey filtered photograph that not so long ago was warmly tinted, immune to gravity and time.


Or maybe I just thought that.

And that’s not really important.

What is important is that we see beauty in death, in the fight for a meaningful legacy.

But we can also surrender to forces beyond our control.

Maybe the beauty in Brittany’s fight was about surrender, how she was not fighting death per se, but resigning to it (as we all have to, really) in the way that was most peaceful for her.

In this, she will stand the test of time gracefully, like the statue-gravestones that I so love. They seem to say Surrender. Peace. We are still here, still valid, still marking the space and place and lives of us and our loved ones…but maybe, just maybe, the acceptance of loss means it’s not an ending.

Maybe marking the reality of (the threat of) an earthly death is exactly what keeps us going.


Two Months in…Aaaaaand Exhale.


Today, I’m relieved.

I’m not really sure what I’m relieved about all together. Maybe it was that I felt physically sick yesterday but woke up and felt well enough to take a little walk/jog in the crisp morning air. Maybe it was that I felt like I *should* be into Halloween somehow but just wasn’t.

This morning, it was lovely going at my own pace, exploring curving (flat!) sidestreets and letting the orange-yellow leaf-littered sidewalks just call me towards them, in any direction I wanted.

Then treating myself to a coffee at my favourite little spot as I walked home.

As I was running (okay, jogging really slowly for only a minute or two at a time), I thought about the exhale and how warming it is, how we can use it to power us.

It is a sigh of relief, a moment of relaxation at the end of a day, season, year.

I was so happy to be able to move my body and not hurt. I was happy to finally feel something other than a weird fullness/pain in my chest and stomach for the first time in a few days.

Somehow I feel relieved that October is over…I’m not quite sure why, because November is always tough.

But I made a pact to myself, this morning of November 1:

1) I will not let my body get the better of me 

2) I will not let this month bring me down like it tends to do 

Now, back to the significance of the exhale:

It’s symbolic of keeping an even breath, of balancing how we are taking in the world and what we are putting out there. It’s about staying attentive to how we are perceiving things with all of our senses, of how we are communicating.

It’s symbolic of what we are giving out. I am so internal sometimes I forget to extend and give. I honestly forget what is inside to give out.

When in water—say, diving—we exhale to sink down. It’s kind of scary but comforting as well. So I’m thinking of it as sinking into the wintertime, kind of settling in and exploring underwater. Obviously there is a need to come up for air at times, but I’ll wait for warmer weather to really hang out on the surface, maybe the sand. There is lots of really cool stuff underwater, even though it may seem dark and scary at first.

It’s about dropping. I’m still dropping things that are coming up, dropping negative thoughts / thought patterns from the past. It’s okay that they are still coming up, but I’m slowly working my way out.

That metaphorical weight and this physical weight will not hold me down. I will spend the winter finding ways to exhale. And it may be challenging on some of the snow-filled days but I have to.

It’s necessary.

I’m digging into a couple of boxes and finding books and scraps of paper that remind me of the sweetest friends, of the people who matter the most, and re-discovering all the books I have yet to read.

There’s more space here, now, and instead of being scared or feeling stagnant or bored, I’m breathing into it.

The next goals: more invitation, imagination, play.

But breathing (out) is priority.